10-09-89 MOSCOW It was a close encounter of the communist kind. Towering, tiny-headed humanoids from outer space landed their UFO in the Russian city of Voronezh and emerged for a promenade around the park, spreading fear among residents.
At least that's what the official Tass news agency said Monday. Tass, contributing to a string of weird tales that have crept into the formerly stuffy state-controlled media in recent months, said in a straight-faced report that Soviet scientists vouched for the UFO's landing. "Scientists have confirmed that an unidentified flying object recently landed in a park in the Russian city of Voronezh," Tass said. "They have also identified the landing site and found traces of aliens who made a short promenade about the park." A Tass duty officer, contacted Monday evening by telephone, refused to identify the reporter who sent the dispatch from Voronezh, but stood by the story. "It's not April Fool's today," he said.
The Soviet media, unleashed by the Kremlin's policy of glasnost greater openness feel free now to hype incredible stories that seem more at home in the supermarket tabloids of the West. Recent examples include other accounts of UFOs, sightings of abominable snowman-type creatures and a tale about a young mystic who goes into a trance and flies about the cosmos.
A rash of mystics and ESP-artists also have invaded state TV. In Buffalo, N.Y., Paul Kurtz, chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, commented: "We're extremely skeptical of this claim. It's not the first one (in the Soviet media). There's many. There seems to be a rash of reports, largely uncorroborated." According to Monday's Tass report, a large shining ball or disk was seen hovering over the park by Voronezh residents. They saw the UFO land and up to three creatures similar to humans emerge, accompanied by a small robot, Tass said. "The aliens were three or even four meters tall (almost 10 feet to 13 feet), but with very small heads," the news agency quoted witnesses as saying. "They walked near the ball or disc and then disappeared inside."
The report resembled a story last summer in the daily newspaper Socialist Industry, which carried an alleged "close encounter" between a milkmaid and an alien in Central Russia's Perm region. In that report, milkmaid Lyubov Medvedev was quoted as saying she encountered an alien creature "resembling a man, but taller than average with short legs." The creature, she said, had "only a small knob instead of a head."
Stanton Friedman, a consultant who lectures on the topic "Flying Saucers Are Real" and's examined Soviet studies of UFOs, said in Secaucus, N.J., on Monday that Soviet scientists tended to treat the subject more seriously than American scientists.
Last June, the Soviet publication Soviet Military Review included an article on "UFO's and Security." The Tass report, which did not give the date of the purported "landing" in Voronezh, said onlookers were "overwhelmed with a fear that lasted for several days." Genrikh Silanov, head of the Voronezh Geophysical Laboratory, told Tass that scientists investigating the UFO report found a 20-yard depression with four deep dents, as well as two pieces of unidentified rocks. "At first glance, they looked like sandstone of a deep-red color. However, mineralogical analysis's shown that the substance cannot be found on Earth," Tass quoted Silanov as saying. "However, additional tests are needed to reach a more definite conclusion," he said. Silanov said the landing site and path taken by the aliens was confirmed using the "biolocation" method of tracking. The agency did not explain what that was. Further confirmation came from witnesses in Voronezh, 300 miles southeast of Moscow, who were not told of the experiments and whose accounts coincided precisely with the scientific findings, Tass said.
In July, Tass deflated a report in Socialist Industry quoting a UFO specialist, A. Kuzovkin, as saying a 26-foot-wide patch of burned ground near southern Moscow was probably caused by the landing of a UFO. Not so, Tass reported. Firefighters think a haystack simply caught fire and scorched the ground.
Russians have long been fascinated by the weird and the occult, but formerly they could glean their information only from rumors and underground copies of everything from palmistry guides to books on Eastern mysticism. The Kremlin's economic reforms, with their emphasis on each enterprise paying its own way, have also given the official press more incentive to cater to readers' tastes in order to increase circulation.
Kurtz's committee's a UFO subcommittee and has been investigating the claim made by Tass. Kurtz, a professor of philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, said Monday: "Since the press freedoms in the last year, increasingly it seems to be open season. Paranormal pandemonium's broken out in the Soviet Union, not only with UFOs, but faith healers, astrologers and so on. In a closed society such as the Soviet Union, you don't get the development of critical reason." He said the account "has all the characteristics of science fiction."
Kurtz noted that scientist Silanov says the landing was confirmed by biolocation "As far as we can tell it's a kind of dowsing. We're very questioning of that. It's hardly a scientific method of testing whether anything's landed or not." "If this were true," Kurtz remarked, "I think chairman (Mikhail) Gorbachev would call a press conference and proudly announce that, with everybody attempting to get out of the Soviet Union, at long last here are some extraterrestrials in that Union."
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